As states, provinces and countries slowly start to re-open following stay-at-home orders, people are left with many unanswered questions and new information about the novel coronavirus continues to be discovered. As researchers learn more about how COVID-19 affect humans, they are also investigating how the virus may be transmitted through pets.
Now, more than ever, pets are a source of comfort and companionship especially for those living alone during social distancing. They help lower blood pressure, offer a sense of purpose and dog owners are more likely to get regular exercise walking; one of the few outdoor activities permitted. Dog owners are also more apt to socialize with others, at a safe distance, and swap stories about their beloved pets.
But because a few dogs and cats worldwide have tested positive for COVID-19, it’s important to take precautions when taking pets outdoors and to isolate pets from anyone who becomes sick in the household. According to a recent AARP report, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises pet owners to avoid dog parks and public spaces where dogs play together and keep a minimum 6-foot distance from both people and animals outdoors. If possible, keep cats indoors to limit their exposure to other animals and people.
If someone becomes ill with COVID-19 and must interact with their pet, they should do so following the same precautions as with people; wearing a cloth face mask and washing hands before and after touching any animal. Although the risk for a pet becoming seriously ill from coronavirus infection is very low, there is always a chance they could spread the virus to other people. People visiting from a distance with elderly adults should not allow pets to interact with seniors unless they can be sure proper measures including thorough hand washing and mask-wearing will be taken. Pets could unknowingly transmit the virus on their fur or in saliva.
Keep washing hands frequently, make sure pets are up-to-date on their vaccines and now that Spring has arrived, don’t forget to use flea and tick prevention. While you are stocking up on food, household goods and prescription medications, don’t forget to keep a good supply of pet food on hand. Many veterinarians are doing curbside drop-off and pick up using masks and gloves to protect pet owners and themselves.
Learn more about COVID-19 and animals by following this link to the CDC website.